This article originally
appeared in RaceWire,
a service of ColorLines magazine.
California is one of a growing number of U.S. states that have a majority people
of color population. According to the California Department of Finance some 61%
of the state will be people of color within six years. Today one-in-four Californians
are foreign-born; by 2050 the ratio becomes three-in-four.
But California's legislation priorities do not reflect the interests of its majority
population according to a new report from the Applied Research Center (ARC).
The report, titled California's
New Majority: 2004 Legislative Report Card on Race, rates the
voting record of the State Senate, Assembly and Governor on ten "racial
equity" bills introduced last session.
Using letter-grades, the report gives a "C" to the Legislature as a
whole, and gives an "F" to Governor Schwarzenegger, who vetoed seven
out of ten of the bills. Of the 120 total state legislators 45 received a perfect
record for supporting all ten bills. "The Governor flunked on fairness," said
Tammy Johnson, Director of ARC's Race & Public
Policy program. "He is making a grave miscalculation by not supporting
policies that improve the lives of the majority of Californians. Now he has an
opportunity to change that." Several of the vetoed bills were reintroduced
Solomon Rivera, Director of Californians
for Justice, a statewide membership organization, concurred with
the report's findings. "Most legislators support racial equity legislation like the educational
opportunities bill of Senator Vasconcellos (D-San Jose)," he said. "But
the Governor's record is abysmal." The Governor's Office did not
return calls when called for comment on the report and his veto record.
The report's authors selected the ten bills because they believe
the bills represent the greatest positive impact for communities
of color. The bills included a bill
to protect Native American sacred sites, one to increase the state's minimum
wage, and another to establish statewide hate crimes standards. Two racial
equity bills received significant support from both parties:
the Native American Sacred
Sites Preservation and the Food Stamps Restoration bills.
"Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation preventing hospitals from charging
higher rates to uninsured patients," said Menachem Krajcer, the report's
author. "At Catholic HealthCare West hospitals, for example, the uninsured
account for less than three percent of all patients, but 77 percent of the total
profit." Senator Ortiz (D-Sacramento) recently reintroduced the
The report recommends that lawmakers prioritize policies that increase
equity and fairness, invest in opportunities, and strengthen protections
violence, profiling and discrimination. "The Governor and the Legislature
must improve their record by taking immediate action to provide equal opportunity
for all," said Johnson. "Instead of leveling the playing field,
the Governor has kicked sand in our faces."
The report is available at the ARC website, www.arc.org.
Libero Della Piana is the Editor of RaceWire.
His writes frequently on issues of race and social change.